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Home owners snub government demands

SOME apartment owners are snubbing a government order that they pay extra for homes which have been involved in a housing scandal.

The householders in Wenzhou City of east China's Zhejiang Province, complain they are being asked to pay for the actions of corrupt government officials.

The order for the extra payments was issued as a punishment for officials following a public outcry over reports that government officials had bought relocation apartments cheaply, today's Economic Information Daily reported.

But many officials have sold their cheap apartments on and the new owners are left with the "punishment" payments.

From 2004 to 2005 the city's Old House Renovation Headquarters sold 143 of these apartments without permission. They were meant to be resettlement homes for people whose homes had been demolished for urban construction but were sold to government officials for about 8,000 yuan (US$1,170.80 per square meter, 30 percent below the market value. The price has now doubled.

With the apartments worth 11,549 yuan per square meter when the homes were sold, the city government is now asking their owners to make up the price gap by paying more than 3,000 yuan per square meter for their homes. Those who do not pay by the end of this month will have their sales invalidated, owners said citing the government notices they received.

The home owners say it is unfair, because they already paid market prices for their homes which had been sold to them by officials involved in the scandal.

They have complained to local disciplinary supervisors.

The headquarters' current director Liu Hongguang told the newspaper that the headquarters has learned about the issue and will try to persuade the officials who sold the apartments to pay the price gap.

Wenzhou disciplinary official Tao Shimei said the government would not make the third-party buyers pay the price gap.

One owner, surnamed Cai, said he had received a notice requiring him to pay a 633,732-yuan price gap for his apartment.

He bought the apartment in May 2006 at the then market price of 2 million yuan, or 9,950 yuan per square meter.

The seller, surnamed Zhang, told him she got the apartment from the Old House Renovation Headquarters. She asked Cai to transfer 1.69 million yuan to the headquarters' account and the rest to her husband's account.

He later learned Zhang took the 310,000 yuan as a profit from the sale. Zhang's husband is a county government official.

Zhang has refused to pay the price gap for him, Cai said.

Another buyer, surnamed Li, had a similar experience.

He has been asked to pay another 570,000 yuan for his apartment, a home of 169 square meters he bought in May 2006 for 1.91 million yuan, or 11,318 yuan per square meter.

The seller, surnamed Huang, asked him to transfer 1.5 million yuan to the Old House Renovation Headquarters and the remaining 410,000 yuan to Huang's personal account.

Huang shared the 410,000-yuan profit with another two people. The three were from the same village as Wu Quanshu, 62, a former deputy director of the headquarters, who is being investigated, according to an earlier Xinhua report.

Huang also refused to pay for the gap for Li, Li told the Economic Information Daily.

Owner Li Liangbo complained that the price-gap meant ordinary home buyers had to shoulder the costs of corrupt officials.


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